Sunday, July 09, 2006

Being Part of Your Own Generation: Making it Up as You Go

Recent comments from Turtlekill have stimulated me to consider alternative ways in which a person might wish to order his/her life. Both men and women are being shortchanged by current societal expectations.

For women, some evidence suggests that having children at an early age (in her twenties) produces health benefits for both mother and child. But all health concerns aside, is it possible that there is something inherent in the process of raising a very young child that teaches something to a parent that cannot be easily learned any other way? Is it possible that child-raising itself offers benefits to the mother (primarily), that will stand her in good stead in the course of her later career?

I suggest that this is the case, that watching and aiding the physical and mental development of a very small child provides a learning experience that is very profound and very valuable. Such an experience is also frequently very rewarding emotionally, and frequently not regarded as a sacrifice.

A woman trained in human nature by very young professors-in-diapers, can be a formidable judge of character indeed. Often what seems to be missing in trial judges in courts of law, entrepreneurs, and rising executives in enterprise, is that very character judgement. Yet so often professors of feminism discourage young women from having children early, and disparage and criticise women who make such a choice for early child rearing. Perhaps they lack good judgement themselves?

Young men are also putting off marriage and child-rearing later and later in their lives. ( Why should they buy the cow when they can get the milk for free, so to speak?) It is not only the mother who learns from the young child. If the father will pay attention and attend to the child himself, he could also learn a great deal about human nature, and also gain an emotional reward.


It is expected that children of college educated parents will also go to college, and beyond. In fact, it is desired, "societally", that most youth should graduate from high school and go on to graduate from college. But is that the best plan for the youth, and for "society?"

With the internet (and before that with public libraries), virtually everyone can have the knowledge base and erudition of the college educated, regardless of their formal educational attainment--as long as they can read and learn to operate a computer. With faster connection speeds and more advanced interfaces, virtually any type of knowledge or skill will be available over the net.

The lack of a college degree did not keep some of the most famous billionaires and tycoons from achieving their wealth. In a large part of the world, it is still a person's capacity to achieve that counts, rather than the degrees behind the name. Children and youth need to learn real world skills, and problem-solving skills well enough that they acquire justified confidence in their ability to make their way in the world. A college degree is no substitute for confidence based upon achievement.

Unfortunately, the educational system in the west is devised to deny children and youth the opportunity to achieve anything meaningful. This is because the people who devise and revise the educational system do not have real-world skills themselves, so fail to see any value in them. Educated idiots, is the cruel but accurate description for a large proportion of university professors and professors of education. How are these educated idiots going to help students to acquire necessary skills that the idiots do not even recognise as important?

University of Minnesota scholars Harkins and Moravec have put forward a bold plan for making universities relevant again. Their Leapfrog University proposal is a hopeful and reasonable approach to making universities a fertile bed for growing solutions to societies problems.

But not everyone, not even most, perhaps, should go to university. A university education is no guarantee of success or competence. The more society tries to force everyone to get a college degree, the less value the certificate seems to have. Then you need a masters, a doctorate, a post-doc, a post-post-doctoral fellowship, and so on, to distinguish yourself academically.

But in the real world, it is competence that counts. Competence and confidence that is based upon competence. One alternative to college for young men (and recently for young women) has always been military service. Many young people go into the military uncertain and unskilled, and come out with job competencies that in civilian life might have taken much longer to acquire.

In an opportunity society, it is entrepreneurs and independent businesspeople who have the greatest potential for economic growth. In the independent business world, you do not generally need a degree if you have the competence. This is more true in the trades, in businesses that service the large businesses, and in new pioneer industries, where rigour mortis has not set in, as it has in the professions.

An intelligent high school dropout can still apprentice in a trade, learn the business, then strike out on his/her own. If able to out-compete, the dropout can grow a new business to an impressive size, and either cash it in or move to a supervisory and planning role and live on the proceeds. Not bad for a dropout. Better to have the degree, perhaps, but there are ways to compensate if people are open to them.

How many people have internalised the attitude of "failure" or "loser" because of the limited and overly critical attitude of many in society toward educational and professional achievement? How many of these go on to become failures, losers, drunks, junkies, etc. because of this subconscious internalisation of society's attitudes? What might they have contributed if they had been given all their options when they were young?

But how could they, when there is such prejudice against alternative orderings of one's life? When their teachers themselves serve merely as conformist enforcers for the larger society?

These are very interesting things to consider. Do not for a moment believe that this blog has seen the last of speculations on this topic.

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